The Marx factory fire in Girard PA

Last Updated on November 26, 2018 by Dave Farquhar

The birthplace of scores of classic toy trains fell victim to the Marx factory fire in Girard, Pennslyvania.

The old Marx factory stood at 227 E Hathaway in Girard, Pennsylvania. For a time in the 1950s, Marx was the largest toy manufacturer in the world. Marx made toy trains at the site, which caught fire on July 12, 2016. There were no immediate reports of injuries, fortunately. There was very little news coverage of the fire.

The Erie Times-News reported the fire damaged about 30,000 square feet of the 330,000 square foot complex. Officials now believe the fire started at three rooftop generators, then progressed to the roof. It took about four hours for crews to confine the fire.

Girard is a manufacturing town along Lake Erie in western Pennsylvania, about an hour and a half east-northeast of Cleveland and about two hours north of Pittsburgh.

Marx and its predecessor, Girard Model Works, made trains at the site for a period of about 40 years, dating from 1934 to 1974. Most of the set boxes bore the words “All inquiries regarding repairs or service should be addressed to Louis Marx Co. Inc., Service Division, Girard PA.”

Girard Model Works sold its trains under the Joy Line brand name, sometimes using Marx as a distributor. After Marx took over, it phased out the Joy Line name and sold them under its own brand name. Marx also made trains for Sears, which sold them under its own Happi-Time and Allstate brands.

Public interest in toy trains peaked in the mid 1950s. By 1974 toys that represented railroads, which themselves were struggling, no longer sold well. Marx, by then a division of Quaker Oats, was in its waning years. Quaker sold it to a British conglomerate a few years later and Marx was out of business by 1978.

In recent years the old factory has served as an incubator for 32 small businesses, which employ a total of about 100 people.

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